- Gatland shuffles pack to cope with demanding schedule
- Halfpenny to become Wales’ oldest World Cup back
- Lake to captain the side
Head Coach Warren Gatland has made significant changes to the Wales rugby squad for their upcoming World Cup clash against Portugal. Out of the starting lineup that secured victory against Fiji in the tournament opener, only Taulupe Faletau and Louis Rees-Zammit retain their positions. Gareth Anscombe is set to take the reins at fly-half.
50th cap for Williams, Lake to be captain
Dafydd Jenkins and Christ Tshiunza from Exeter will be anchoring the lock positions, and scrum-half Tomos Williams will be celebrating his 50th cap. Gatland explained, “We’ve made a few changes this week given the six-day turnaround,” emphasising the need to adapt to the demanding schedule.
Debutants Mason Grady and Johnny Williams will join Dewi Lake and Tshiunza in making their first World Cup appearances. Meanwhile, seasoned players like Dan Lydiate and Leigh Halfpenny, participating in their third tournaments, provide a valuable wealth of experience.
At 34 years, eight months, and 26 days, Halfpenny sets a record as the oldest back to represent Wales in a World Cup game, surpassing the legendary Shane Williams. Lake, at 24, will take on the role of captain, having recovered from a knee injury sustained in August.
Gareth Anscombe, absent since a shoulder injury in November 2022, will make a return to the World Cup stage. His last appearance was in the 2015 quarter-final against South Africa, and he missed the 2019 tournament in Japan due to a knee injury. Sam Costelow is listed among the replacements.
Dafydd Jenkins, the youngest member of the squad at 20, earns his first World Cup start after a good performance as a replacement against Fiji. Tshiunza, at 21, transitions from flanker to secure his maiden international start as a lock.
Among the 33-man squad, the only player yet to feature in the opening games is prop Henry Thomas. Gatland expressed confidence, stating, “We’ve done a thorough debrief of last week’s game and know the areas we need to improve.”
Wales are scheduled to face Australia in Lyon on September 24, followed by their final Pool C encounter against Georgia in Nantes.
Wales team to face Portugal: L Halfpenny; Rees-Zammit, Grady, J Williams, Dyer; Anscombe, T Williams; Smith, Lake (capt), D Lewis, Tshiunza, Jenkins, Lydiate, Reffell, Faletau.
Replacements: Elias, Domachowski, Francis, Beard, Basham, G Davies, Costelow, Adams.
Wales are overwhelming favourites to win. At the time of writing bet365 are offering 1/100 for a Wales win with Portugal 16/1 and a draw 50/1. Despite the changes made to the starting line-up Wales should have more than enough to win. However, those looking towards handicap bets or betting on the winning margin need to realise that with so many changes the Welsh may not be quite as strong as they were in their opening match.